Language Arts & Reading
Living books are books that are inherently interesting, have literary merit, and make any given topic come alive. Living books—whether a great work of fiction, a nonfiction account of history, or a biography of someone who impacted the world—are the foundation of our curriculum at SCCS.
Students read living books of choice as well as teacher-selected living books every day as part of Reading Workshop. This small-group method involves explicit instruction in phonics, decoding, and comprehension within the context of real books. As students transition and become fluent readers, they continue to participate in small group instruction by participating in book clubs.
In almost every subject, students are taught the skill of narration—or telling back what they have heard—to strengthen their memory and help them become focused listeners and critical thinkers.
Students also participate in Writing Workshop, where they write their own stories and ideas. The teacher guides each student individually through the writing process, and the students experience what it’s like to be a real author by sharing original writing pieces with their peers many times throughout the year. Students also receive instruction in spelling and grammar in meaningful ways.
Resources that guide our LA instruction:
Oxford Reading Tree (series)
A Guide to the Reading Workshop, by Lucy Calkins
The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller
The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book, by Jennifer Serravallo
6+1 Traits of Writing, by Ruth Culham
At SCCS we use Right Start Mathematics in Kindergarten through fourth grade. Right Start is a multi-sensory curriculum that seeks not only to help students learn and understand math, but to enjoy it as well. By minimizing the use of flashcards and worksheets, and emphasizing the use of manipulatives and math games, the curriculum gives students the instruction and practice they need to achieve competency and become flexible problem solvers without becoming frustrated and bored by math in the process.
In fifth grade we transition to Singapore Math, which dovetails nicely with the Right Start kindergarten through fourth grade curriculum (both are based on similar Asian approaches to mathematics instruction), while providing for a greater emphasis on word problems in these older elementary years.
Science & Nature Study
One of the distinctives of a Charlotte Mason education is the regular study of nature. Students are given many opportunities to explore and interact with the natural environment. Through nature study, keeping a nature journal, and taking regular nature hikes, students develop their observation skills and their appreciation of the beauty and intricacy of the world around them. The skills and principles developed in nature study extend into science, as students learn about the principles that govern the natural world. Students also learn about the importance of caring for creation through the study of conservationists, recycling, composting, and weekly time caring for our school garden during the growing seasons.
Social Studies: History & Geography
As the students read, hear, narrate and interact with living books, the opportunities to ask and answer questions of whom, when and where will naturally arise. By integrating the study of history and geography with literature, the students are able to see the connections between facts and ideas, and will develop a broader, deeper understanding of their world.
Charlotte Mason Distinctives
Being able to express oneself in writing is an important developmental milestone and life skill. At SCCS, we use the multi-sensory curriculum Handwriting Without Tears to develop this fine motor skill in preschool through fourth grade, and then utilize the Presidential Penmanship curriculum in fifth grade and higher. Print is taught in preschool through second grade, and cursive is taught in third grade and higher.
Picture & Composer Study
An excellent piece of art can captivate our senses and emotions, so we expose our students to the lives of great artists and their work. By learning to carefully observe and attend to a great work of art, students learn to understand and appreciate both historical and contemporary masterpieces.
By exposing our students to excellent music, we are not only giving them an ear for rhythm, melody and harmony but we are also teaching them to understand and appreciate great music. The enjoyment of music is an ability that can be enjoyed throughout one’s entire life. Students take time to study the lives of great composers and become familiar with their work. We also arrange opportunities for students to attend live performances by the St. Louis Symphony when possible.
Bible stories are read and discussed regularly at every grade level at SCCS. We use the Big Picture Story Bible (Helm) for PK3, Jesus Storybook Bible (Lloyd-Jones) for PK4 and Kindergarten, The Child’s Story Bible (Vos) for first through third grade, and the English Standard Version of the Bible for fourth grade and older.
Students in every grade at SCCS participate in at least weekly Spanish lessons beginning with songs and conversation. This exploratory program provides all students a positive experience interacting with another language, as well as an opportunity to consider diverse cultural histories and stories. An emphasis on learning a second language is supported in our Charlotte Mason educational philosophy where she asserts “to train the ear to distinguish and the lips to produce the [foreign language] vocabulary is a valuable part of the education of the senses, and one which can hardly be undertaken too soon.”
One of the joys of life is to be able to create something beautiful with our hands. As they are creating, students learn about color, pattern, texture and design as well as experience the satisfaction of working diligently and carefully on a project and seeing it through to its completion.
Middle School Overview
Middle School at SCCS is a Charlotte Mason learning experience with a view to high school preparedness. Students make rich connections across subjects while acquiring the practical and academic skills needed to be ready for their next academic endeavor. Note taking, good homework habits, learning how to research, test-taking skills, peer editing, and learning the scientific method through lab work are a few examples of skills practiced by seventh and eighth graders.